Students suffer as VIU faculty strike continues

Frustration and anxiety is building up for Vancouver Island University students, who have missed two weeks of school as of today (March 24) due to the VIU Faculty Association's strike.

Frustration and anxiety is building up for Vancouver Island University students, who have missed two weeks of school as of today (March 24) due to the VIU Faculty Association’s strike.

The strike began Thursday March 10 after negotiations broke down between the faculty association and university administrators. A meeting last weekend ended after five hours when the mediator determined that both sides were still too far apart. No further talks are scheduled.

In the meantime, students’ lives are on hold as they wait for the two sides to come to a resolution.

L–A Shibish, a tourism management student who hoped to graduate this semester and organize a summer internship position through the university, organized a gathering in the Welcome Centre on the Nanaimo campus Monday for students to get together and talk about how the strike has impacted their lives.

What frustrated many of the roughly 75 students who showed up at the event was that they can’t even make contingency plans because they don’t know when or if they will go back to class, she said.

“We have anxiety, some of us aren’t sleeping, some have lost the motivation to carry on with their studies because they think it’s fruitless,” said Shibish.

One student described the situation well when he said that students fell like children caught between two parents in a divorce, said Shibish.

She said some are signed up for field schools and others have jobs lined up after exams were supposed to finish. Students looking for work have had employers tell them they won’t consider their application because it’s uncertain when students will be available.

Many international students have non-refundable plane tickets booked or visas that expire and will lose the semester if the strikes continues and the semester is extended, said Shibish.

She also heard from some students who lost some of their scholarship money because they are not attending classes.

She compiled students’ comments on the impacts of the strike and sent the document to the faculty association and administrators.

“We’re not taking sides in this,” said Shibish. “We’re trying to share with both parties that we’re not part of the negotiations, but we’re probably the most heavily impacted. Students just want to be back in class.”

VIU drama students are afraid they will lose an opportunity to perform their end-of-year play.

Students were scheduled to perform “Wedgie” by Jason Patrick Rothery March 31 to April 2 in the Malaspina Theatre on campus, but cannot do so if the strike is still on.

Proceeds were to go to an annual scholarship for theatre students and to help support students in Tanzania.

Nick Barrett, a third year theatre student, said students have been working on the play since September. It is an extra-curricular activity for most, but it gives students a chance to practice what they’ve learned in class because the students produce it entirely by themselves without help of instructors, he said.

“It’s a huge thing for our resumés,” said Barrett. “I don’t want to lose a whole year’s worth of work.”

Students are rehearsing in a public park at the moment, he added, and plan to hold the first performance March 31 on the picket lines at 5 p.m. They are looking for alternate venues for the second two nights.

Any suggestions can be e-mailed to malaspina.theatre.students@gmail.com.

VIU president Ralph Nilson said university administrators are working on alternatives that will allow students to finish the semester, such as compressed timelines for exams and extending the semester, but are doing this on a program by program basis as each program will require a different solution.

Some courses may end up getting cancelled, Nilson added, such as the trades apprenticeship students who were supposed to go back to class Monday at VIU.

“We’re not at the place yet where we’ve had to consider cancelling the semester,” he said.

 

Both sides firmly dug in

The faculty association has maintained that the main sticking point in contract negotiations is over job security issues.

VIU president Ralph Nilson said the association has put 14 items on the table, but only one of these items includes language clarifying what it is the association wants, while the other 13 are general statements that don’t define exactly what the association wants.

“We’re ready as long as they come to the table with some material we can discuss,” he said, adding that a counterproposal to the language put on the table Saturday was rejected by the association.

Dan McDonald, faculty association president, said his bargaining committee has detailed contract language and is willing to give this to the university when they return to the bargaining table.

He said the university is also trying to reduce the effectiveness of the faculty association’s picket lines by teaching ESL students off site. McDonald was bringing this to the attention of the Labour Relations Board Wednesday after press time in an effort to have this stopped.

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